Letter With No Address

The day our paths collided, you became my lifeline. I was, you see, in a far worse position than I allowed myself to believe. At best, I had mere weeks left to live, yet somehow I convinced myself that there were months, and many of them.  That denial regarding the true state of my health gave me the determination to cling to life.

To be brutally honest, I didn’t give much thought to the origin of my new lungs, which makes my discussions seem a little clinical now. But please understand, this was a coping mechanism – I was hanging on by my fingernails, existing on hope, and although I knew someone else had to die, I didn’t dwell on it. There is a sense of desperation, a willingness to embrace any option when your time starts running out.

In my yearning to continue living, I never thought of you as a person. As an individual with hopes and dreams. Instead, donated lungs were an abstract concept, part of a selfless act that would save my life. Donated from a generous individual and with consent from a family brave and strong, who during a dark and horrible day and in the midst of their grief, still thought of others.

Reflecting makes me feel a little callous and shallow because I think about you every day now. I’m so consciously aware that these lungs, now a part of me, once belonged to you. And you are someone real. Someone who breathed, walked and talked. Someone who was happy and sad. Someone who loved and was loved. Someone who gave me much more than a second chance. Someone to whom I will always be connected, although I will never know you.

I am entrusted with the guardianship of taking care of a part of you, and with it comes the responsibility to live life well and to the fullest. Since the day your lungs became a part of me, I’ve experienced many milestones, both big and small. My extra time has not been wasted.

More importantly, there is a simple pleasure in waking each morning to take a sweet breath without coughing, without gasping, without pain. And each wonderful breath is followed by another. Because your lungs, our lungs, do what lungs are supposed to, naturally and without effort, giving me more energy to pour into the world and make a difference to those things that matter most to me.

I am not who I was before the transplant, although I am still me. My son describes my changes succinctly. I am, he says, who I was always meant to be. But of my changes, great and small, it is the ones with no explanation that fascinate me the most, as if a part of you has imprinted onto me.

The words “my donor” leave a bureaucratic taste in my mouth. To me, it reflects an impersonal nature, as if this had been an ordinary transaction between strangers. There is nothing ordinary about this; it feels deeply personal to me. You’ve given me so much more than a second chance; it’s as if the final jigsaw piece has slotted into place and now I’m complete. As long as I continue to breathe, your contribution to my life will never be forgotten. I have this fervent wish that wherever you are, you know what an impact you’ve had.

There is nowhere I can send this letter, it has no address. So instead, I’ll send two little words out into the universe and hope that somehow they find you and let you know you made a difference.


Sunday 20th November 2016 is national Thank You Day for our fabulous organ donors and their families.


2016 DonateLife WA Honour Ceremony

This special ceremony honours those people, and their families, who made the decision to donate their organs at a time of great loss. My gratitude and respect, not only for those involved in the decision that resulted in my transplant, but for all the families who have said yes, cannot be put into words. I was honoured to be asked to participate in this special ceremony on Sunday night.

Donate Life, Service of Remembrance 2016

Donate Life, Service of Remembrance 2016

I usually speak to students about my journey, and my presentations are very visual. Each presentation is always different, often lead by the questions that curious young minds ask. Speaking to over 600 people who had found the selflessness to think of others and consented to organ donation, was a hugely humbling experience.

It was an opportunity, not to educate or inform, but to give thanks to these families and a chance to explain how my life was changed by a decision such as theirs.


With my wonderful Pop, 1975

With my wonderful Pop, 1975

In my lifelong battle with Cystic Fibrosis, even my earliest memories revolve around endless medications, nebulisers and the dreaded twice daily physio. In the final months before my transplant, I was literally clinging to life by my fingernails, somehow making do with a scant .37 litre lung function.

With my son, Jarryn and my loyal Monkey Dog , January 2011

A transplant isn’t a cure it’s a trade, but what a wonderful trade it has been for me. There is a very simple pleasure in waking up and knowing that I can take a deep pain-free breath without struggling, a joy knowing that each breath will be followed by another, and another – because these wonderful lungs do what they were meant do, naturally and without effort.

My transplant was more than a second chance, it’s allowed me to realise my potential and achieve goals I could only dream about before, only made possible because someone had the generosity to say “yes” to organ donation.

Sun Setting over the 2016 Ceremony. Photo credit Georgia

Sun Setting over the 2016 Ceremony.
Photo credit Georgia

I’ve not had the opportunity to speak to my donor’s family, however Sunday night was an opportunity to express my gratitude in a different way.

“The gift that results in a transplant is between strangers, but it is also a deeply personal gift, which makes the words thank you seem a little inadequate. It’s more than a physical gift – it also carries the opportunity to have a future, a second chance.

I will never meet or know the person who gave me this second chance, but I think about them every day.

So, to their family I would say, you made an important decision, one that made a great difference to my life and the best way I can show my gratitude is to take the best care of these wonderful lungs that you entrusted me with, to live life well and to the full.”


With Anna and Greg earlier in the day for our media interviews.

With Anna and Greg earlier in the day for our media interviews.